While many small businesses may overlook the need for a dedicated communications specialist or team, Lewis-Price Chief Communications Officer Lisa Slappy has spent an entire career helping others tell their story, and has advice for small business owners seeking to establish or improve their company’s reputation and trust factor.
Corporate communication is a fundamental part of any business strategy, no matter how big or small the business. Whether it’s a one-person shop or a multinational corporation, how a business communicates with both its clients and its employees is a key factor in achieving lasting success.
“You have to ensure that company messaging is clear and consistent at every level,” Lisa Slappy, Chief Communications Officer for Lewis-Price & Associates, Inc., said on the Business Innovators Radio Podcast. “Communication is about sharing the right information to the right people in the right places to help build a brand’s reputation and voice, and that voice must be distinct, identifiable, complimentary, and consistent.”
Lewis-Price, an Inc. 5000 staffing company headquartered in McLean, Virginia, specializes in placing professionals in information technology, professional development training, program management, administrative support, and other high-demand positions throughout the country. Inc. is a business magazine best known for its annual rankings of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S.
As the chief communications officer, Slappy manages Lewis-Price’s messaging at all levels. The overall goal is making sure people know Lewis-Price provides quality talent to increase the efficiency of operations for its clients.
“When I came to Lewis-Price, we began to build a brand internally and externally, and it really started with putting the Lewis-Price logo on a folder. It’s a small thing in the world of PR, but it was a big thing for the company,” Slappy said. “I remember riding on the train one day, carrying my folder with the Lewis-Price logo on it, and someone who worked for the government came up to me and asked what Lewis-Price was.”
Slappy said the conversation-starter resulted in exchanging business cards and sparking a professional relationship. “Had I not had that folder with our logo on it, he probably would have never approached me in reference to who we are and what we do.”
Being known is important, Slappy said, but another critical communications focus is making sure a company’s name is trusted. “When we think about communications and public relations, it’s all about increasing a company’s credibility and brand, and trust is one of the important factors that plays a huge role in business,” Slappy said. “A lack of trust in any organization can turn away a lot of potential clients.”
While building trust through communications is vital in building relationships outside of a business, it’s just as vital to internal communications.
“Businesses make mistakes with internal communications too, like not including everyone in the communication—speaking too ‘corporate’ and not speaking to your employees like team members,” Slappy said. “Employees should understand the big picture of how they fit into the company’s overall goals and objectives. Employees are more productive when they understand their role and there’s more meaning to their work if they understand the company vision and their place in it,” she stressed. “Your first audience is your team members.”
Frank Wolf, co-founder of Staffbase, a mobile employee communications platform, also sees value in internal communication. “Communication within a company can become blocked or made inefficient, and when it does, informal networks, rumors, and uncoordinated messages often fill the void,” he said in a SmallBizDaily article. “The result is a nightmare scenario in which employees become more actively engaged in the acquisition of valid information than they are on their actual work.”
Small businesses need a plan for when things go wrong — and to have a plan in place before problems happen, Slappy said. “Every company should have a communications plan in place to address any unforeseen crisis that could affect the company,” she said.
“Well before a crisis, a company should identify members of a crisis management team and run drills on how to handle specific issues, emergencies, or crises that are specific for their company. A crisis can negatively and permanently threaten the reputation of the organization and its leaders,” she continued. “So planning to communicate effectively during these circumstances is a critical component of addressing any issue.”
Slappy also urges companies to disseminate accurate information as soon as possible. “Accurate information is premium when it comes to a crisis,” she said.
While Slappy makes it clear that every business, no matter how small, needs strong external, internal, and crisis messaging, as a business grows it may wish to consider hiring a dedicated communications manager or department. Business owners, Slappy said, need to assess when it’s right for them to grow this part of their team to help them reach their maximum profit potential.
“Owners need to ask questions like ‘Do people know my brand?’ ’Do potential clients of customers know who we are and what we do?’ If you can answer those questions, that will put you on the right path toward knowing whether you need a communications person, team, or department,” she said. “Because in the end, communication builds business leads, and business leads build profits.”
About Lewis-Price & Associates, Inc.: Founded in 2003, Lewis-Price is an SBA 8(a) certified staffing company committed to providing solutions to their clients and teaming partners alike. They staff diverse, engaged leaders in IT, cyber security, program management, and training, and are grounded in the values of integrity and intention.
Lewis-Price & Associates, Inc.
8200 Greensboro Dr ste 805, McLean, VA 22102
Company Name: Lewis-Price & Associates, Inc.
Contact Person: Lisa Slappy